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Portland Horror Film Festival 2017: Short-Length Horror Shorts Part 2

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Fantasy, horror, Movies, Romance, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 21, 2017 by aliciamovie

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‘Blackbird’

Country: UK

Director: Tim Fellingham & Charlotte Stente Nielsen

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

What happens when the one you think is your savior, turns out to have been your tormentor all along? Here on a lonely stretch of nowhere, a man with a concussion and severe memory loss, apparently from getting tossed from his motorcycle, goes to save a runaway maiden in a nightgown. The both of them hole up together trying to figure out what they’re running from, and through a series of dreams and flashbacks and one horrible “gotcha!” moment involving a blackbird tattoo, discover they really do know each-other, a little too well for either ones comfort.

The use of Memento-like timelines and flashbacks can be perfectly fine, but I thought a little too much emphasis was placed on atmosphere and not enough on the story itself. If a movie, either short or feature-length, has only two actors in it, it is very likely that the villain is one of them; it kind of lessens the potential shock value. Nevertheless, should the story be expanded, the short could have real potential.

‘The Dark Hunger’

Country: USA

Director: Anthony Williams

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

What to do when one discovers a supernatural cannibal terrorizing your neighborhood? No calling in the CIA or some paranormal equivalent, no, some sort of mafia-like gang kidnaps the man they call Dead Fred and stick him in a cell, to be fed their enemies. Because Dead Fred is a full cannibal and always cleans his plate, so there’s no evidence left behind. And when we meet up with our cannibal hero, it looks like he’s been enduring this setup for awhile.  His Dark Passenger, the actual cannibal vampire in his skull with the awesome deep voice, is content to stay in prison so long as the captors keep feeding it, but Fred has other ideas. Despite that not actually being his real name, Dead Fred decides to embrace the pseudonym and make a deal with his Dark Passenger to get out of this prison and find the man at the top, the real mastermind monster who put Fred here in the first place!

It’s never easy to combine a supernatural element with an attempt at Hannibal Lecter-like characters, and yet somehow The Dark Hunger manages it nicely. The short reads like a trailer for a film that I would certainly watch, and I sincerely wished the short was one of the longer short films, so I could pretend it was a movie. With even some of the better notes of 30 Days of Night thrown in, The Dark Hunger should make Director Williams an up-and-comer worthy of keeping an eye on.

‘Chateau Sauvignon: Terroir’

Country: USA

Director: David E. Munz-Maire

Review Rating: 7.5 out of 10 

If you could ever imagine what a winery run by Children of the Corn would be like, then the Chateau Sauvignon is for you. The stark landscape, dead animal skulls and eerie wine-making equipment that looks suspiciously like butchery pressings all serve to provide an atmosphere that screams Horror. And almost immediately, it turns out, the vitner equipment really does still make wine for the tourists and all, but is also being used in the butchery of at least some of those tourists, to keep Mom alive. (Whether Mom is a zombie, some kind of vampire, cannibal or anything else, is unclear.) But the meat juice is beginning to run out, Son is becoming concerned, and Dad is just trying to hold everything together, despite Moms condition. Two new tourists have come late to the winery and Son wants to give them the full tour, no matter what Dad says – here sample some of our wine, over here is some of the processes we use to make our vintages, and by the way, your son is a jackass, here’s a glass pouring beaker shoved into your skull. Because Mom needs to be fed, and wine isn’t cutting it anymore.

A very fine short, all kinds of atmospheric and moody, though I would have liked to have a bit more to the story. What kind of creature is Mom now, how did she get this way, what happens to all of them when the meat juice finally runs out? Perhaps for the next series of Horror shorts from Director Munz-Maire, or, he could turn the whole thing into a feature-length jaunt – I would watch it.

‘Death Metal’

Country: USA

Director: Chris McInroy

Review Rating: 7 out of 10

Dude man, I get you, hail Satan and Metal is God and all that, you bet. But if you’re handed Grand-dad’s axe (as in guitar), that he supposedly got from the Dark Prince himself, along with three important rules to follow when using it, you’d want to adhere to them and be respectful wouldn’t you? It doesn’t seem as though frustrated metal-head Lars gives two damns about any of that, and immediately goes off to break all three rules jamming in the afternoon at the park on the axe. Is it any wonder that the axe-head breaks off from the rest of the guitar and goes hog-wild?

I saw Lars and his dumbassery at another Horror film festival and thought it was hilarious then, as now. It’s always so cute to see the Metalheads tossing the horns and headbanging for all they’re worth, because of course Satan’s all kinds of into that. Just never forget, Lucifer has a very wicked sense of humor, too.

‘As They Continue to Fall’

Country: USA

Director: Nikhil Bhagat

Review Rating: 8 out of 10

Whether you’re a fan of the Prophecy series, or saw the film Legion and the short-lived Syfy show it spawned, Dominion, Angels are fairly well-known these days as something other than the be-winged halo’d bringers of light and Gods love. What we have here is the somewhat now-familiar trope of the hobo hero hunting bad guys, in this case actual Angels, and it must be said, doing a fair job of it. From the looks of the feather trophies that line his coat, keeping him warm, our hobo hero is no-one to be trifled with. (Because really, depending upon which hierarchy of Angel you’re fighting, you could strap a nuke to the Angelic type and he’d laugh at you.) Our hobo hero has been dealing with Angelic visions all his life, but now after the apparent end of the world, has taken to hunting them down with vim and vigor. And who could blame him? What is an Angel, after all, but another Devil just waiting to fall?

Many of the minds who worked on this short have made major names for themselves elsewhere (Sinister, Deus Ex, The Thing, the NBC TV show Dracula, to name only a few), and they managed to cobble together a short awesome to watch. The future dystopian world where our hobo hero hunts Angels is clear and perfectly understandable, while much is still left open to audience interpretation and judgment, and in building a world like this, that is what we would prefer.

Movie Moxie’s 31 Days of Halloween – Day 7 – VS. Fight Speaking Villains vs. Mute Bad Guys

Posted in Action, comedy, drama, Foreign, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 9, 2013 by aliciamovie

Freddy

Reviewed by Alicia Glass

You know them, I know them, and most of us love them. The villains who talk incessantly, who always get the best one-liners. The original Freddy, Robert England, always took great pleasure in delivering the campiest scary speeches he could. Grand dialogues are a hallmark of Pinhead, leader of the Cenobites from Hellraiser, voiced and acted by Doug Bradley, to astounding effect. I personally love the fact that they always kept the same voice, Brad Dourif, complete with his iconic laugh, as killer doll Chucky. Even regular old humans, like John Kramer in the Saw series, or Hannibal Lecter, can create Hell on Earth with just the power of their words. Like the power of a murderous program given little girl form with speech, these characters change your entire world when their ideas pour from their lips and infect you.

However…

grudge

We know these guys too. Mute child in a monsters body Jason Vorhees; silent Michael Meyers in his mask; every single last ghost girl with long prehensile hair from J-Horror; the Boogeyman from Sinister; Jaws actually technically qualifies for this list; even every single last zombie, they all have one thing in common: no speech whatsoever. Most epic aliens, like Xenomorphs, don’t speak either. And this shared factor has a tendency to impart a very scary word to each bad guy, the word inexorable. This means the character can’t be stopped, can’t even be reasoned with, because hey, whatever your backstory, you don’t speak and therefore don’t respond at all. This idea, that there is absolutely no escape whatsoever, is brought across beautifully in the Japanese film Ju-On: The Grudge, where your typical scary ghost girl is so poltergeisty furious she kills without restraint, regardless of who you are, and does it all with no vocals other than that creepy door-closing noise.

So who wins? This is a hard one. We love our speaking villains. But from the basic standpoint of which is more frightening, our Muties win. At least with bad guys who speak, you occasionally have a micro chance of escape. Not so with the speechless ghosts, inexhaustible aliens, and iconic masked monsters, oh no. The voiceless will forever be just that much more terrifying.

Sinister

Posted in drama, horror, Movies, Sci-Fi, suspense with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 11, 2013 by aliciamovie

sinister-movie-poster-405x6001

Reviewed by Alicia Glass 

Studio: Alliance Films

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Scott Derrickson

Review Rating: 7

A true-crime writer who moved his family into a house that was the scene of a previous murder, finds a cache of 8mm films featuring other murders and finds himself and his family the victim of vicious supernatural visitations.

I can’t put my finger on what it is about this movie that actually makes it quite watchable. Ethan Hawke as writer and father Ellison Oswalt runs around in this awful sweater most of the time, drinks too much, and in general isn’t willing to give up his dream of finally breaking it big with his next true-crime book for the sake of his families safety or even sanity. He yells at his wife, snarls at his children, is flippant with the small town Sheriff who tries to tell him to leave, and even accepts the help of the celebrity-smitten Deputy So and So for researching his latest opus. The wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) is your standard generic worried wife character in any given horror flick, and the more she tries to knock some sense into Ellison, the more he buries himself in his work and locks the door. The kids, Trevor (Michael Hall D’Addario) and Ashley (Clare Foley) start acting out as soon as they move in to the new house – Trevor has godawful night terrors, and Ashley sees the ghosts of the kids already following her father, even painting them on her wall. But that’s just the laundry list of the not-so-good things. On to the nifty stuff.

Perhaps a day or two after Ellison begins setting up his workroom, he goes into the attic and finds an old 8mm film projector and a box of reels from previous years. And as the curious investigator he is, just has to set them up in the workroom and watch them, only to be surprised and disgusted when the reels reveal the rather horrid deaths of five families, apparently at the hands of this ghoulish figure generally referred to as Mr. Boogey. Ellison still hasn’t told his wife or either of his children that they moved into a house where a murder of an entire family less one missing child was committed right in the backyard. He converts the 8mm films to computer vid files as though that would help him study things closer, finding more and more visions of Mr. Boogey and various symbols on the blood-strewn walls that lead him to seek aid from a college professor over his computer. He didn’t get credit for it, but Professor Jonas that Ellison speaks to is actually Vincent D’Onofrio, master of such roles as the Carl Stargher in The Cell. The Prof explains that the symbols are indicative of an ancient pagan deity known as Bughuul, who eats children more or less, and that there’s no real way to avoid him once you’ve seen his symbols or worse, his image. All these families who were murdered in the most horrific ways had one young child go missing, never to be seen again even after the murders have take place. But then hey, it finally begins occurring to Ellison (and the audience, if it hasn’t occurred already, it’s now cluex4 time) those terrible reels he’s been watching: if Bughuul is actually in the video, who’s doing the shooting? Realizing he’s made a terrible mistake far too late, Ellison frantically wakes his wife and children in the dead of night to run away to their old home with a sigh of relief; it’s over. Or is it? Deputy So and So keeps calling Ellison, even after Ellison swore up down and sideways there isn’t going to be a new book anymore, and hey that’s terrific, but. The star-struck Deputy does thorough research and discovered the other link between the murders, how they followed a chain of eachother after getting out of that house, and guess what Ellison just did with his family. Noone ever pays close enough attention to the children in these Horror films, even when the story is supposedly about them, and it just hasn’t occurred to Ellison to be suspicious at all when his daughter makes him a late drink as her way of saying goodnight – forever.

Somehow the difference in camera styles doesn’t get annoying or nauseating. The tone is constantly set with a fine score, you just can’t have a good Horror flick without a great score. Perhaps it’s the truly creepy ending, with all those children in dead paleface, and Bughuul himself, who never speaks but lurks about in the most terribly evil manner. Huzzah for villains who don’t talk at all! I could’ve skipped the “gotcha!” at the very very end though, just sayin.